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Grassley, Sessions Question Judicial Conference in Hawaii

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

Updated: 12:51 p.m.

With an eye toward saving taxpayer dollars and the recent scandal at the General Services Administration, Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley (Iowa) and Jeff Sessions (Ala.) are questioning the wisdom of a judicial conference scheduled for August in Maui, Hawaii.

“We are concerned about the overall cost of this conference and do not believe that discussions about the administration of justice would be less successful were they held somewhere other than a spa and resort in Hawaii,” the Senators wrote in a letter to Alex Kozinski, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.

Grassley is ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, and Sessions is ranking member of the Budget Committee.

“Technology is so advanced that people are earning college degrees online and soldiers serving halfway across the world use Skype with their families at home,” Grassley said in a release. “Likewise, a judicial circuit court should be capable of using technology to share information without requiring a trip to an island paradise. It’s especially tone-deaf to plan a pricey conference after the [Government Services Administration] debacle. The taxpayers can’t sustain this kind of spending, and they shouldn’t have to. The court should re-examine whether this is the best use of tax dollars.”

“This conference is further evidence the federal government is in a state of financial chaos,” Sessions said in the release. “How can anyone in Washington ask for more taxes when this culture of excess continues? Americans struggling to pay their bills are tired of watching the government throw lavish events on the taxpayer dime. They are tired of watching entire sectors of government behave in a fashion totally disconnected from the reality of our perilous financial state. At this time of fiscal crisis, America needs leadership that will restore accountability and ensure a disciplined budget is adopted at last.”

The 2012 Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference is scheduled for Aug. 13-16 at the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa in Hawaii, according to the court’s website. The conference is authorized by law “for the purpose of considering the business of the courts and advising means of improving the administration of justice within the circuit.”

Attendees include judges of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and the federal district and bankruptcy courts in nine western states and two Pacific island territories; representatives of the federal bar practicing in these courts; court staff and special guests, according to the website. Federal government funding allocated to the 9th Circuit for the conference is used to provide the educational program and to conduct business meetings. Government funds are not used for any recreational or sporting activities, according to the site. Supreme Court Justices Anthony Kennedy and Samuel Alito are also scheduled to attend, according to the conference website.

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